Note: Traveling during the COVID pandemic is a highly personal choice and should account for your personal comfort, tolerance for risk, and overall health. The conditions, status, and entrance requirements of various destinations are in constant flux so please check local authorities for the latest information. Also, please review the State Department and CDC’s latest guidelines to ensure you’re ready and able to travel.
To say it was a very personal decision to travel to Italy in the middle of a global pandemic would be an understatement.
My dual citizenship between the United States and Italy made it possible, and I safely arrived in Sicily in October 2020. I quickly fell in love with la dolce vita and decided to move to Rome, where I now call home.
So, is it safe to travel to Italy right now? While there are plenty of regulations and safety measures in place, US Citizens are still not permitted to enter Italy for non-essential travel as of the writing of this article. The state of emergency in Italy has been extended to April 30, and daily life is still far from “normal” here.
There is a very narrow list of who is allowed in the country, and unfortunately, citizens of the United States have yet to make the cut.
While Italy’s borders may be closed to most tourism, now is the perfect moment to get informed on what daily life is like in Bel paese. That way, you’ll know exactly what to expect when it’s time to take that highly anticipated trip!
What It's Like To Be In Italy During The Pandemic
Since my arrival five months ago, I still haven’t sat down for a proper dinner out. Restaurants have always closed at 6 pm, and I’ve become accustomed to life under curfew, which is nightly from 10 pm-5 am. I’m usually rushing to get home by 10 pm, so late nights in the piazza are a thing of the past.
Undoubtedly, these circumstances have impacted my overall experience in Italy, but I’ve only come to appreciate what I can do that much more. Sitting down for lunch, for example, isn’t something I ever take for granted!
To get a complete picture of what life is like in Italy right now, you should know that there are rules that apply to the entire country, as well as regional rules.
First, There Are The National Rules
One year into the pandemic, all of Italy is still under tight restrictions, including a nationwide curfew. There is currently no travel allowed between regions without an approved reason, such as work, emergency, health, or to return to home. This means if you’re living in Rome in the region of Lazio, you cannot go to Milan in Lombardy, for example.
Wearing masks, both indoors and outdoors, is mandatory, and fines start at 400 euros for noncompliance. Social distancing of at least one meter is strictly adhered to, especially when in shops and restaurants. Visiting a private home is only allowed once per day, and no more than two non-cohabiting people are allowed to gather at a time.
And Then There Are The Regional Rules
Additional restrictions are applied to Italy’s 20 regions within Italy based on a tiered color system: white, yellow, orange, or red. Colors are set based on the COVID-19 rate of transmission (Rt index) and are updated every two weeks by the Prime Minister. Things can change at a moment’s notice, so be sure to check local news sources and follow the Ministry of Health when you’re ready to travel to Italy.
At the moment, the entire country is in an orange or red zone until Easter.
Red zone (“zona rossa”): Sometimes referred to as “lockdown,” this is the most restricted zone. You must have an approved reason for leaving your house and carry a self-declaration form (autocertificazione) that states your intention for movement, such as exercise, grocery shopping, or health matters. Restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery, and non-essential businesses and schools are closed.
Note: In an attempt to keep the number of COVID-19 cases down over the holidays, all of Italy will be in a red zone for Easter weekend. The same measures were also applied over Christmas.
Orange zone (“zona arancione”): More freedom than the red zone, non-essential shops and schools are open, and you may travel freely within your city (not region). Restaurants are still only open for takeout and delivery.
Recently, a stricter “reinforced” orange zone was introduced. Additional restrictions include no travel to second homes, distance learning only, and closures of many shops over the weekend.
Yellow zone (“zona gialla”): One week after I decided to travel to Italy, I found myself living in this zone, which always feels like a breath of fresh air! Restaurants can be open for indoor and outdoor table service (until 6 pm, of course), and residents are free to travel throughout the entire region.
White zone (“zona bianca”): Added to the list in mid-January, the white zone is the closest return to pre-pandemic normalcy and a marker of what is possible. Curfew is adjusted to 11:30 pm, and restaurants are open until 11:00 pm! Gyms, theaters, cinemas, will slowly be back in business, and museums can stay open over the weekend. Sardinia is the only region to have been in this zone so far.
While life in Italy is still a far cry from pre-pandemic normalcy, there is a semblance of hope that things will start to open again by summer. People are slowly getting vaccinated, and locals are preparing for a new influx of tourism later this year.
Speriamo. Let’s hope.
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Published March 2021